Theater review: Society descends into anarchy in 'Nekropolis'

Fred Hawson

Posted at Apr 23 2023 10:25 AM

The cast of Tanghalang Pilipino's 'Nekropolis' at curtain call. Vladimir Bunoan, ABS-CBN News
The cast of Tanghalang Pilipino's 'Nekropolis' at curtain call. Vladimir Bunoan, ABS-CBN News

There were two sections in this city. The rich lived in Mariposa, where the rich residents were called butterflies. The poor lived in the Projects, where the poor residents were derisively called mosquitoes. The authoritarian leader was a man they called the Mayor. The main opposition was a woman they called the Kapitana (Julie Dimayuga). The nights in the city ring with gunshots as drug addicts were shot down without compunction.

One night, Miggs (Marco Viana) was contemplating about an imaginary wormhole where he can come out the other end as his younger self. A nervous young man named Alex (Marc Lorenz) met up with government employee also named Alex (Vince Macapobre) for his first sexual rendezvous. Claire (Lhorvie Nuevo) allowed lesbian drug pusher Karina (Mitzi Comia) into their apartment to hide during a surprise raid. 

This was an experimental project unlike anything I had seen from Tanghalang Pilipino before. It begins with a series of world-building episodes where various characters described their lives in this chaotic city which was on the brink of civil war. Admittedly, it was very confusing at first, I did not know what was going on. Even at the end, I cannot claim to understand everything that transpired, but I definitely felt the urgent unsettling message it was conveying.

The production design of Tata Tuviera was so abstract, beginning with bodies on the floor covered with newspapers, and ending with an explosive shower of waste paper and skulls making a big mess on the stage. There were ropes crisscrossing from ceiling to floor in all directions, giving the illusion of shattered glass. The projection designs of Joyce Garcia on the floor or the live shots of the actors onstage on the backdrop heightened the mood of tension. 

The whole play felt like a madhouse when it reached that crazy climax when the whole cast was on different parts of the stage, simultaneous doing their own things, while some random characters were running around like headless chickens, I did not know where to look at or whom to listen to. Director Charles Yee wanted to show writer Guelan Luarca's idea of a society descending into anarchy, and that bleak dystopia was exactly what we saw and felt. 

*****

"Nekropolis" runs only for six shows at the Tanghalang Ignacio Gimenex in one weekend from April 20-23, 2023. 

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."